Off the Path: Small Gods

Many campaigns have world-spanning deities whose power reaches everywhere (more or less). They can provide the ‘full range of services’ (i.e. spells all the way up to ninth level, or seventh in some editions of D&D). Very useful from a game play perspective.

However, the idea of being able to meet and interact (and deal) with the actual spirit of the forest has always intrigued me. I like the idea of divine creatures who have notable power but are greatly limited in their reach.

It turns out this is pretty easy to do in the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game.

Making a Small God

The simplest mechanical implementation of small gods is to simply use (and bend slightly) the mythic rules.

  • A small god is a creature of at least CR 5, and typically at least Mythic Rank 3. The creature gains:
    • the mythic subtype;
    • a bonus to natural armor (base +0 if it doesn’t otherwise have natural armor) equal to its MR;
    • bonus hit points equal to its MR times 6, 8, or 10, depending on whether the base creature uses d6, d8, or (d10 or d12) as its racial Hit Die;
    • damage reduction (5/epic if it has 5 to 10 Hit Dice, 10/epic if it has 11 or more Hit Dice; existing DR if any is merged);
    • bonus to spell resistance equal to MR, if it has spell resistance;
    • the mythic power and mythic surge universal monster abilities;
    • at MR 2, 4, 6, 8, and 10, the creature gains a +2 bonus to one ability score (all can be added to one score or they can be split up);
    • at MR 1, 3, 5, 7, and 9, the creature gains a mythic feat it qualifies for;
    • additional mythic abilities equal to one more than its MR;
    • CR increased by half the MR, XP adjusted to match.
  • Among the mythic abilities, pick
    • Divine Source (Su): [3rd-Tier Universal Path Ability] The creature can grant divine spells to those who follow its cause. Choose two domains suitable to the small god’s portfolio/interests. The small god can only grant spells of a level up to its MR. The small god can cast one spell per spell level per day, chosen from the domain spells available. At MR 6 and MR 9 this mythic ability can be taken again, adding one domain and two subdomains. Deviation from RAW: the small god does not need to take ‘alignment domains first’, per the normal mythic ability. A subdomain may be chosen in place of a domain if it better suits the small god.
  • The small god might have other divine casting ability, such as (and probably no more than) one of:
    • the Simple Divine Spellcasting ability (universal monster rule), giving it knowledge of cleric or druid spells with a total number of levels equal to twice its Hit Dice (none higher than 1.5 times its Hit Dice) and the ability to cast each once per day;
    • the Cleric Creature template from Pathfinder Roleplaying Game: Monster Codex;
    • cleric (or druid, etc.) levels.
  • The small god might also have the Mythic Magic ability (universal monster rule). Three times per day when it casts a spell (from Divine Source or Simple Divine Spellcasting or some other ability) it can spend mythic power to cast the spell as a mythic spell.

Fill in the rest of the abilities and you should be about done.

Note that you could use the Divine mythic simple template instead, but I think the more detailed rebuild works better.

Sample Small God: Sheshsia, the Well Spirit

The farmers and other villagers of the valley perform small rituals to thank Sheshsia, the Well Spirit, for keeping their water clean and sweet.

Mechanically — I’ll expand on her story elements in another post — Sheshsia is a mythic huge water elemental (CR 10/MR 4) with the Divine Source (Water and Community domains) mythic ability and the cleric creature template (normally +2, but I discounted to +1 for weak spell choices and because the stats aren’t CR 11).

Huge Water Elemental
CR 10/MR 4 (base CR 7, template is +2, MR is +2, but much closer to in-line with CR 10 because many of the added abilities are weak)
XP 12,800
N Huge outsider (elemental, extraplanar, mythic, water)
Init +8; Senses darkvision 60 ft.; Perception +17

AC 25, touch 13, flat-footed 20 (+4 Dex, +1 dodge, +12 natural, –2 size)
hp 135 (10d10+40+40)
Fort +11, Ref +11, Will +7
DR 5/—; Immune elemental traits

Speed 20 ft., swim 90 ft.
Melee 2 slams +15 (2d6+7)
Space 15 ft.; Reach 15 ft.
Special Attacks channel energy (3/day, level 8), drench, mythic power (4/day, surge +1d8), vortex (DC 22), water mastery
Cleric Domain Spells (CL 10th; DC 14+level)
4th (1/day)—imbue with spell abilitysleet storm
3rd (1/day)—call lightningprayer
2nd (1/day)—fog cloudshield other
1st (1/day)—blessobscuring mist
Cleric Spells (CL 10th; DC 14+level)
4th—control water
3rd—remove diseasewater breathing (might have remove curse instead of water breathing)
2nd—cure moderate woundslesser restoration
1st—(any two)
0—(any two, often create water or purify food and drink)
Mythic Abilities amazing initiative (+4), divine source (Community, Water), empathic healing, hard to kill, pure body, recuperation, water of life

Str 24, Dex 18, Con 19, Int 6, Wis 19, Cha 11
Base Atk +10; CMB +19; CMD 34
Feats Cleave, DodgeM, Great Cleave, Improved Bull Rush, Power AttackM
Skills Acrobatics +11, Escape Artist +15, Knowledge (planes) +7, Perception +17, Stealth +3, Swim +26

In practice I would be inclined to change the domain spells, such as by creating a new subdomain or hybrid domain. The water domain as written doesn’t quite align with what I want here. I added the ‘cleric creature’ simple template to provide additional spell access that better fit what I wanted. Because the spells typically don’t have combat utility and the statistics align more closely to a CR 9 creature than to a CR 11 creature, I’m treating this as a CR 10 creature — the additional spells and channel energy clearly add something, but it’s not as much as might be suggested by the template.

Closing Comments

Creating the statistics for Sheshsia, the Well Spirit, was mostly straightforward. There was some slight complication when I found the domain spells didn’t do quite what I wanted, but it wasn’t that hard to work around. In practice I’d do more, probably create a ‘Sheshsia domain’ that replaced some of the water spells with something that better fit my vision.

Those who entreat Sheshia for divine power gain access to cleric spells, but only of up to fourth level. She is neutral, but I would consider her to have good tendencies and thus require that her clerics channel positive energy. Those who can plead their case to her directly might benefit from her abilities… but they’re pretty limited.

My next post will focus somewhat on how to build a ‘local pantheon’ of small gods.

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  1. David Lamb

    Cool idea. Does the list include all the water spells? which seems appropriate for a water spirit, despite any rules that might limit their number.

    Imbue with Spell Ability seemed a little odd to me for a water spirit. Also sleet and lightning go with weather, OK for some more general water-related small god but a little outside the portfolio of a “well spirit”.

    • Sheshsia got imbue with spell ability via the Community domain.

      And yes, the spell list is suboptimal. It’s pretty clear to me that while a small god might grant particular domains, the small god’s own spells should probably be more thematically restricted.

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